Netflix chief executive Ted Sarandos defended controversial film "Cuties" recently, after a Texas grand jury indicted the streaming giant for running the project, which features the experiences of four 11-year-old girls involved in a French "sensual dance" troop.
While speaking at the virtual Mipcom market on Monday, Sarandos called the film "misunderstood" and said "it's a little surprising in 2020 America that we're having a discussion about censoring storytelling," Deadline reported.
"It's a film that is very misunderstood with some audiences, uniquely within the United States," Sarandos added. "The film speaks for itself. It's a very personal coming of age film, it's the director's story and the film has obviously played very well at Sundance without any of this controversy and played in theaters throughout Europe without any of this controversy."
The award-winning French film — rated TV-MA (for mature audiences only) in the United States — attracted immediate criticism for its overt sexualization of young children upon its debut on Netflix. Outraged viewers rushed to sign a Change.org petition called "Cancel Netflix Subscription," and the hashtag #CancelNetflix soon began trending on social media.
Shortly after, a Texas grand jury indicted Netflix on charges that the streamer "knowingly promote[d] visual material which depicts the lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of a clothed or partially clothed child who was younger than 18 years of age at the time the visual material was created, which appeals to the prurient interest in sex, and has no serious, literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."
Throughout the controversy, Netflix has adamantly stood by its decision to stream the film, only offering an apology for using "inappropriate artwork" to promote the project in late August.
In a statement to TheBlaze, a Netflix spokesperson essentially argued that by streaming a film about the sexualization of young children, the company was working to combat the sexualization of young children.
"Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children. It's an award winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up — and we'd encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie," the spokesperson said.